Warsaw, Poland – The Polish Episcopal Conference was held last week in the city of Wałbrzych, in south-western Poland, with discussions dominated by the scandals of child sexual abuse that have rocked the Polish clergy in recent months.
This year’s 383rd Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ conference was attended by a special guest in the person of Charles Scicluna, a Maltese archbishop and the Vatican’s top envoy and investigator on cases of pedophilia. The Vatican announced last month it would send Scicluna to Poland so he could hold talks with Poland’s Catholic Church and share his insights and experience to tackle the problem.
Following the conference, Scicluna said he would like to “encourage Poland’s bishops to implement the very good guidance points that they themselves adopted” six years ago. The Maltese archbishop also urged anyone aware of a case or a cover-up to report it to the top religious authorities.
“My very strong message to the bishops of Poland this morning was: we need to pass from very good documents to an example of best practice”, he argued, saying that rules weren’t sufficient unless they were implemented.
The issue of sexual abuse from members of the Polish clergy has been at the center of Poland’s public debate for months. In face of growing pressure from activists, civil society and citizens, who accuse the Catholic Church of covering up the problem, the government, which holds close ties to the clergy, has announced a series of measures.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that the government will launched a public inquiry into alleged cases of pedophilia, while lawmakers recently passed a bill to toughen current penalties for child sex offenders and pedophiles, including within the priesthood.
In March, the Polish Catholic Church released a report admitting to hundreds of cases of sexual abuse since the 1990’s, but critics argue the figures don’t reflect the reality and scope of the problem.
The topic was reignited a few weeks ago following the release of a shock documentary showing victims confronting the priests and bishops who allegedly offended them years, sometimes decades ago.